The Hot, the Cool & the Vicious

Reviewed by Yves Gendron

Captain Lu (Tang Tao Liang) is the ultra stern and righteous ass-kicking security chief of a small town where no criminals can escape the grasp of his striking feet. Then some mysterious strangers arrive. One turns out to be Pai Yung Chung (Don Wong) a notorious trouble making martial rogue who claims he’s only sight-seeing but actually is very much up to something. The other is Ms. Lee who has a very personal score to settle with Captain Lu from the time when he was a less law-abiding citizen himself. It’s at this point that the no-good rotten spoiled son of the town’s richest and most influential notable Mr Yuen (George Wang) accidentally kills the mother of Captain Lu’s fiancée. The latter swears to arrest him thus leading to a conflict with Mr Yuen, the very man who named him to his post, and Pai Yung Cheung who for his own mysterious reason puts himself in between them as Yuen’s new bodyguard. And always lurking around is the mysterious Mr Lung, a lame, hunchback martially expert albino who’s an associate of Mr Yuen in some shady business and who will eventually come out in the open to confront both Lu and Pai.

Like SECRET RIVALS a kung fu pot-boiler done the same-year with co-star Don Wong, THE HOT, THE COOL AND THE VICIOUS (1976) is sort of a gimmick movie where two heroes: one a southern stylist, the other a leg fighter are put in a conflicting situation only to ally themselves and become the best of buddies by the end to fight a very powerful common enemy. Various sorts of intrigues, double-dealings, hidden agendas, and tentative romances along with the occasional kung fu bash-in are what makes-up the bulk of the plot. Even if HOT, THE COOL AND THE VICIOUS is basically a rip-off of an earlier film, it still remains intriguing and well paced and whose genial performers display superb skill with a rocking fighting finale to make an entertaining kung fu romp.
Of course, Tao Liang’s superb kicking provides some superb action within, but Don Wong’s southern style manoeuvres are equally savvy, while chief villain Tommy Wong, not only does mantis fist along with lots of kicking and acrobatics befitting a Peking Opera performer but as a hunchbacked, lame albino with superlative fighting skills he comes across as an outlandish looking villain. Wong also serves as the film fight choreographer. It’s interesting to note that with one of the heroes being a leg-fighter, the other a southern stylist and the villain a Peking Opera performer full of fancy acrobatic moves you get all of your three basic types of kung fu action in one movie. Beyond the fighting, one more character provides some nice visuals: the town bitchy and seductive red-clothed inn-hostess who is eye candy.
H, C and V was directed by Lee Tso Nam, an able semi-reputed kung fu director-journeyman, who delivered some notable minor entries into the old school martial art genre such as THE LEG FIGHTERS also starring Tang Tao-Liang. His films appear to go beyond the “I want REVENGE” kind of plot prevalent in kung fu movie making.  Based on H, C and V as well as LEG FIGHTERS this reviewer is looking forward to seeing some of his other films. Tang Tao Liang is a relatively well-known mid-level kung fu star; famous for his awesome kicking abilities and his student John Liu was the leg-fighting co-star playing in SECRET RIVALS opposite Don Wong. The latter is not as well- known as Tang. With his mop-head and his facial structure he could easily pass for one of those Bruce Lee clones and he actually did start as a Bruce Lee replacement. Indeed back in 1972, Bruce was scheduled to play a Sino- American cop opposing corrupt colleagues and a thugish gangster played by Chuck Norris. He, however, wasn’t interested in working again with the planned director Lo Wei who he had done his two previous films with and who he considered an incompetent hack. Bruce wanted to direct his own movie. So exit the Bruce, enter the Don, a real live American cop or so this reviewer has read in one source. The film the YELLOW FACED TIGER (74) tanked tremendously and Don Wong disappeared for three years reappearing in the cult classic SECRET RIVALS. From the late seventies to mid eighties he starred in around two dozen kung fu films before retiring in 1986. He was never a huge star but seemed to have been a capable well-liked player within the genre. He was paired many times with Tang as well as doing a lot of movies with director Lee including a sequel to The H, C and V called CHALLENGE OF DEATH (81).
SOUTHERN FIST, NORTHERN LEG AND THE KING OF HELL (H, C AND V’s original Chinese title) opens with the customary form-display showcase done by the films lead players, a generic sequence all jazzed-up by a rocking tune promising a great kung fu spectacle.  In this reviewer’s opinion the film actually holds to its promise in that regard, even if for most of an hour there’s much more talking than fighting. No matter, the noose of intrigue is so tight and fun it holds the film together without feeling like useless fill-in and once the fighting begins it’s a real nice action trip.

My rating for this film: 7.0